The Volunteer: A Poem

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Another poem found in the wonderful Special Collections! This one entitled ‘The Volunteer: A Poem’ and written by William Pickering in 1797.

William Pickering was born in Leeds, and ‘acquired an extensive knowledge of the languages’. He died in 1807, at the age of 32. His poem notes the experience of Volunteers from the Norman Conquest to the present day when France’s ‘ancient worth’ has been so destroyed by the ‘Conqueror’ – although when writing in 1797, I am not so sure that it is Napoleon that he has in mind! 

My favourite verse comes towards the end of the poem, when Pickering describes the state of the Volunteer who is about to leave for war:

There the long Ranks of generous Soldiers come,

Whilst thrills the liquid Flute, and rolls the Drum;

Onward they march, no mercenary Band,

But armed spontaneous for their native Land;

Flushed with no frantic Zeal by Meteor led,

Or spectre beckoning round the Midnight Bed:

To drink no Bother’s Blood their Swords are drawn,

Or persecute where Iron Despots frown;

To Freedom and their King their vows preferred,

Who rally round the Fane their Fathers reared;

Protecting Youth extends his Arm to save

From Insult, Age, who seeks a quiet Grave;

Stands the pale Virgin in mute Anguish lost,

Whose glowing Lover joins the gallant Host;

Who feels conflicting Passions tear his Breast,

Till Indignation triumph o’er the Rest:

There Thousands kneeling life the streaming Eye,

The breathing Prayer floats trembling to the Sky;

Oh! By sweet mercy ushered, may it bring

Descending Concord, hovering on its Wing. 

William Pickering, The Volunteer: A Poem. Brotherton Collection, Yorkshire H-Lee_6.1 PIC.

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